Turkey needs to accelerate its reforms after Sunday’s general election to kick-start its stalled effort to join the European Union, the EU’s enlargement chief said in a newspaper interview on Tuesday.
Turkey began EU membership talks in 2005 but the bloc has frozen talks in eight of 35 policy areas over Ankara’s Cyprus policy. Nicolas Sarkozy’s election as French president has also strained ties because he is opposed to Turkey joining the EU.
"Last year the reform process slowed down," EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn told Germany’s Die Welt daily. "After the parliamentary elections we expect Turkey to step up its reform push again and to make progress in the direction of the EU."
"Progress is needed with regard to freedom of belief and religion. Only then can the membership negotiations get a new thrust," he said, comparing the current situation to half time at a sports game.
"Both teams are rather tired, we need new blood and must revive the spirit on both sides. After the parliamentary elections we will go into the second half," Rehn said.
The EU suspended accession talks in the eight policy areas because Turkey refused to open its ports and airports to traffic from EU-member Cyprus, a country Ankara does not recognise.
"Negotiations on the (eight) individual chapters cannot be concluded until Turkey opens its ports," Rehn said.
Turkey’s ruling centre-right AK Party is widely expected to win the July 22 election but possibly with a reduced majority.
The AK Party has presided over strong economic growth, falling inflation and the historic launch of the EU accession talks since sweeping to power in November 2002.
Güncelleme Tarihi: 17 Temmuz 2007, 14:02